Thursday, April 30, 2020

Reduce Your Anxiety and Improve Your Overall Well Being with Yoga, Pilates, and Singing Part 2

Yoga helps our singing (and mind) for many reasons.  It calms your breath, nerves and minds, opens up the body to breathe better, elongates your spine for better posture and therefore breath support, it centers our soul.  Yoga creates balance- the words are essentially synonyms for those who do yoga.  But how can yoga and other balance related activities help your singing? There are a myriad of benefits to the singer.  Lets look at the science as to why!

In Make Your Unstable Life Work for You, Claudia Friedlander describes the science of how the balance of yoga can really help your singing!  I was fascinated with how she described what I use often in my studio.  I highly recommend what she has to say!  Let me try to explain it with a few references to her words (in italics):

Stand up and find your balance on one foot, bringing your other foot up to your calf or above your knee, and raise your hands above your head (tree pose).  Feel how you find balance and how your leg, hip, ankle adjust to keep the balance.  It is a series of continuous, incremental adjustments.  Find a sustained phrase from your repertoire that is challenging and sing it while in this pose.  You may find that this passage is now much easier to sing.  WHY?  Finding this balance has put your neuromuscular system on high alert making all motor activity that you engage in benefit.  It cannot lock up like your knees might or stop and start as the breath might because everything is going in to you keeping your balance.  This makes total sense.

As Friedlander states, Singing, like balancing, is a continuous activity.  The more you think about locking up a part of your body to balance, the more possible it is for you to fall over.  The more you think about holding pitches rather than continuing the breath through them, the more difficult they are to sustain.  Find activities that promote stability through continuous movement such as tree pose, walking the phrase, or pretending to throw a baseball with a slow follow through.

Balance and stabilization can:

- Enhance body awareness (improve your mind/body connection to your voice)
- Promotes good posture (free larynx, improve resonance, coordinate better breathing)
- Make you more comfortable and graceful moving on stage
- Stabilize your joints so that you can safely exercise and maximize your stamina (cardio and strength training)
- Teaches your neuromuscular system to create stability through continuous movement that impacts all of your physical activities

Singers should have a workout regimen that includes stabilization training to balance their muscles. Challenging your ability to keep your balance and maintain good posture throughout a series of movements prepares your body and your nervous system to perform movements requiring greater strength and fine motor coordination.  (Fine motor coordination that is essential to quality singing).

How do you do this?

A variety of activities but specifically Yoga, stability ball activities, and functional strength activities (keeping your balance on one foot while manipulating small dumbbells in bicep curls) are a few ways to get started.  As you exercise in these ways, you are challenging your body and brain to stabilize through movement.  This works on the neuromuscular control necessary to develop stability both physically and in your singing.

While focusing on your neuromuscular control, you enhance your focus skills and start to feel better from the inside out!  Give the above suggestions a try and let me know how it goes!  Pilates work up next week!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Reduce Your Anxiety and Improve Your Overall Well-Being with Yoga, Pilates and Singing

Reduce Your Anxiety and Improve Your Overall Well-Being with Yoga, Pilates and Singing: 

It has been studied and reported for many years that yoga and music (specifically singing) can reduce anxiety, improve your overall mental health and just plain make you feel good!  NOW of all times is a good time to explore this concept!    We are all facing different challenges in this Pandemic of 2020.  Some from our work & school, others from family and friends and being responsible by staying home.  It introduces good things (more family time, time to explore hobbies, clean out the garage, get things done) and stressors (missing friends, performances being cancelled, time to enjoy our hobbies with others outside of our homes).  Both yoga and singing are said to help improve our mood and focus.  Now is a perfect time to explore the affects of Yoga, Pilates and Singing combined!
Yoga is a practice that  focuses and calms your mind, aligns your spine, improves posture, and strengthens your whole body which is all beneficial to singing.  Pilates takes mental focus in addition to strengthening your body from the inside out with much emphasis on ‘the core’ or abdominal muscles which are the powerhouse of a singer.  Both pilates and yoga are practices that help you to be more in tune with your body and pay attention to the needs and comfort of your body and mind.  Because your body is your instrument, it is essential to be in tune with it and take care of it as a singer.  It is clearly a good combination to work on your singing skills!
Singing itself releases endorphins that make us feel good.  We are seeing so many examples of how music is helping people cope and heal on social media today.  Because we all have added stresses and are adjusting to a temporary new 'normal', we can use a little extra help balancing ourselves using a combination of yoga, pilates, exercise in general and music to help our mental health.  
Lets take a moment and think about how yoga and pilates are helping our singing as well!  As a singer, your body is your instrument, so you should take care of it by exercising and eating well.  Both yoga and pilates help posture for singing.  Time is spent on body alignment, deep breathing, releasing tension within the body and mentally finding a better state of being.  Moving yourself to the mat with thy myriad of free programs available today will get you in a better frame of mind when anxiety creeps in.  Getting your body moving will calm your mind and the poses release physical tension while strengthening your muscles (and mind).  With regular practice, you will  have more control over your breath, be able to sing longer phrases, have more endurance, and feel better about yourself.   You will also be more in tune with your body and, just like an athlete, the more awareness you have over you body, the greater your success.

So, lets get moving. Try a few yoga poses to calm you brain and body.  A few of my suggestions are 

* Downward Dog and a few Sun Salutations will help you connect to your breath.  
* Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 poses to bring you empowerment and strength.  

* End with Tree to center you and lengthen the spine.  

 "Oommm" and relax and breathe.

And a few more Beginner Yoga Poses

Stay tuned for more on yoga next week!